Tanzanian Mpingo ’96

Steve Ball

The project aims to provide much needed basic data on the distribution, ecology and exploitation of the rosewood Mpingo (Dalbergia melanoxylon) in the study area, as well as setting up a joint Cambridge/Tanzania long term project to undertake similar surveys at other sites in succeeding years building up a substantial body of data on this species throughout Tanzania. This information will enable Tanzanian authorities and international conservation groups to improve their management plans, and thus sustain stocks of top quality wood.

Project update: 22/8/96. Mpingo is the Swahili name for Dalbergia melanoxylon, the East African blackwood tree used to make woodwind instruments and distinctive carvings. Recent high rates of exploitation have dramatically reduced stocks across East Africa, and the species is facing commercial extinction. Tanzanian Mpingo ‘96, a Cambridge University project working with the Dar Es Salaam University Botany Department, gathered data on the distribution and population structure of a Mpingo-rich area. A methodology for botanical surveying was established and the attitudes and knowledge of local people were gathered. However, more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn. A follow-up project, Tanzanian Mpingo ‘98, was carried out and further work is planned for 2000. Reporting on the 1996 project is in progress (S. Ball verbally 1999).

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